Parenting doesn’t come with a play book. Things happen unexpectedly and I try to be pretty close to right more often than I screw it up. The jury is still out on whether I’m succeeding or not.
So was the case tonight when we were faced with the request from our daughter to join friends who’d invited her to dinner in advance of the grade 8 farewell party tomorrow. While my wife and I hadn’t formalized plans together or as a family, we’d both separately had it in our minds that we would have a family dinner after which my wife would help with any hair drying and styling needs, we’d take the family photo to capture the moment and then head down to the school together.
So, like the true rookies we are in these days of teenagers and digital planning, we fumbled. We first said yes, then reflected on our disappointment that we wouldn’t be having the dinner we imagined, then rallied to support the idea that there is a peer group that included our daughter, then doubted ourselves again over the reality that our child only graduates from grade eight once, until finally the confusion on our faces led our astute 14 year old to ask us what we were really thinking.
It may seem quaint we said, but the celebration of graduating from middle school and the traditions that go with it carry an emotional side to things that we were only just realizing at that moment. We reflected on our own grade eight graduation (my wife’s with jewelry from her parents and grandparents that she still has today and plans on wearing tomorrow night, and my own memories of being dragged out to Tip Top Tailors to buy stiff and scratchy grey flannel pants and a blazer that I’m sure were only worn that one night, and my mom crying at the playing of Pomp and Circumstance). Graduations like this may in fact be more for the parents than the actual participants because the importance of the moment can’t be fully appreciated without the benefit of time. It’s lunacy really, that as parents we work tirelessly to raise our children to be confident, independent and thoughtful people, only to feel a palpable sadness when they start to demonstrate those very qualities that we’re hoping they’ll attain.
In the end, we all felt better and agreed to let her enjoy the dinner and preparation with her friends but we made her promise that the moment we got the chance we’d be making a great fuss over capturing the occasion in an awkward and sure to be greatly treasured photograph.